Model Advice

How to create the best fitness model portfolio

Written by AEFM International

What is a fitness modelling portfolio?

Your fitness modelling portfolio, is the strongest marketing tool you have to develop and promote you, the fitness talent. It is essentially your resume and it should contain everything you need to make an incredible first impression and showcase what you can do, so it should obviously include only your most flattering images, features and action shots.

Fortunately, creating your own portfolio is pretty easy but the more time and effort you put in, the more professional your portfolio will look. It will also present the professional bodies you will come into contact with a sense of the commitment, creativity and sheer hard work you are prepared to put in to succeed.


The steps to building the right fitness modelling portfolio

Starting a career in fitness modelling can be very challenging, more so if you don’t have anything to show off to potential agents and clients. However, with the following steps, you can significantly improve your chances of getting noticed and bagging the first few jobs that will kick-start your new career.

There are two formats you can use to build your portfolio and most fitness models have a combination of both.

  • Online – As we all know, social media is where much of the action is these days. Many of today’s aspiring fitness models actually, as their first step, start by setting up modelling accounts on Facebook and Instagram as it’s easier for more people to find them there than on a personal website or portfolio. However, there’s also a plethora of website builders with innumerable themes to help you build your first professional online portfolio and, as it’s online, you can truly be in control of how your page looks. It can be updated in a few simple clicks and easily linked to Instagram and other social networks. I’m just 
  • An actual portfolio book – One you can physically take along to castings. The pages should be filled with professionally printed photographs which have been organised into sections and under headings.

Your portfolio should prominently display the range of your talents, your unique selling point, (USP) and flexibility as a fitness model so before you jump right in and start trying to assemble yours, take some time to do your research.

  1. Practice! Practice! Practice! – Practice posing in the mirror so you can quickly learn which positions will show you in the best possible light and rule out anything that looks awkward and unnatural. You may also want to take a look at a recent list of the top 20 leading Instagram models you admire and want to follow so you can start practising those poses. It may feel silly and awkward at first but the more comfortable you become, the more confident you will be in front of the camera.

Know your audience or brand – Your photos should reflect the type of work you want and the brands you ultimately aspire to represent. So once again, research those companies, check out their previous advertising campaigns and the athletes they have used in order to gain some insight into the different looks those brands favour and the type of image you want to present to others. 

Tip to remember

Although they say copying is the highest form of flattery, don’t just replicate the looks you see. Use them for inspiration. Tailor them to suit your character, physique and fitness specialities and retain a level of individuality so companies can envisage you as their next big signing instead of seeing the ghosts from past campaigns reflected on your pages.

Finding the right fitness photographer

What a fitness modelling portfolio should contain

When it comes to fitness modelling there is never going to be one exact “look” or “type” that every brand will go for. For this reason, your portfolio should present a range of different looks, situations, styles, even hair colouring, to maximise your appeal. As part of this creative fitness image “resume,” your portfolio should include:

  1. A set of digitals (otherwise known as ‘digits’ or ‘Polaroids’ in the trade). These are a set of around 4 full-body images, taken from different angles (front, back, left and right sides) which will show your true and natural self.
  2. A Composition Card will show your 5 best, most recent shots which present your physique in the best possible light. You also need to include your key measurements and data such as Age, height, body measurements and sizes, eye and hair colour, distinguishing features (freckles, birthmarks, tattoos, etc.), contact details and not forgetting, your specialities and talents. This should go at the front of your portfolio.

A gallery or collection of images which highlight the full range of your versatility as a fitness model, including your fitness specialities and talents (your USP). These should be organised creatively but please ensure it’s easy to flip through. The athletic talent manager or agent will have an idea of a definitive look they are searching for and it may take just a few seconds to decide if it’s you, therefore, put your best work at the front of the book so it is seen first.

Tip to remember

As you get more work and have more content to work with, it’s super important that you update your portfolio with newer photos and more recent work experience. At the same time, always have new photos taken regularly to show that you are consistently in shape and active.

Trade for prints TFP

Selecting the right fitness images for your portfolio

How many images you include in your portfolio will depend on the length of time you have spent as a fitness model. However, you should remember – it’s quality, not quantity that counts. Here are golden rules to help you decide which photos should make the final ‘cut’.

  • First of all, sort through all your shots and whittle them down to the ‘best of the best’. Can 
  • Remove all emotion from the process. Trying to be objective with your own images is difficult but take a step back and detach yourself – pretend you are looking at someone you don’t know from an agent’s perspective. Remember, there’s no room for sentimentality.
  • Do not include multiple images from the same shoot or pose. Your portfolio should reflect your versatility, your character, your fitness specialities, hobbies, talents, styles, looks and sporting skills. A definite “turn off” is a snooze-worthy portfolio that shows a one-dimensional modelling ability and nothing more.
  • You can make a decision based on the reaction you have received on Instagram or other social media platforms but remember, while likes and positive comments from your mum, family members and ‘bezzy’ mates can be all encouraging and life-affirming, they are subjective, and prioritising photos praised by fellow fitness professionals would be more sensible.

Get a second opinion from someone in the fitness model industry.

Tip to remember

Investing in a professional shoot will be money well spent as it will produce many images to be specifically used for commercial and advertising purposes which will be presented to potential publishers.

Finding the right Fitness Photographer

Finding a reputable and experienced fitness photographer is critical to helping you secure both fitness modelling jobs and getting you noticed by the right agencies. While you may know a great photographer who produces adorable puppy photos or images of heavenly sunsets, that does not mean they will be the right choice for developing your fitness portfolio. In the specific world of fitness modelling, it is vital to use a photographer experienced in the fitness industry as they know what clients will be looking for, they understand how to show off your physique in the best possible light and poses, and will help you develop to your maximum potential so you can book jobs and make money.

Working with a photographer is like any other professional relationship but you must remember in this instance, you are paying them for a service that is going to help you visually communicate the best parts about who you are, so it’s important to know how to approach working with one in the right way. Also, when working one on one with another person in a close environment, it is important you actually get along. The rapport you have with your photographer will come across in the photographs so have a chat and make sure there’s a firm foundation for a long term business relationship. If you don’t feel at ease in their presence or have nothing to say, they might not be the right person for you. It is essential you are able to build a sense of mutual trust and respect so you are in a position to suggest things that may work and communicate when something does not. If it doesn’t feel right to you then there is more than a chance that will also be reflected in the final image so, if you are unsure about something, you need to make your feelings known.

Best fitness portfolio

Trade for Print Shoots (TFP)

Trade for Prints or Time for Prints are essentially the same thing – the final photographs will be used to build up the photographer’s portfolio as well as your own. It can also provide you with valuable experience in front of a camera and how to move in a shoot.

If you don’t have the means to pay an established professional, a TFP agreement can be made with a photographer who is new to the game and is trying to establish themselves, or someone moving into a new genre of photography. You can find them by contacting local colleges, universities, camera groups or on social media.

Here are some important things to consider to protect and keep yourself safe:

  1. Research the photographer carefully. Most photographers, professional or otherwise will have either a website and/or a social media profile displaying the types of photography in which they specialise in. Inspect their profile carefully and examine their “body of work” for consistency, quality and to ensure it is a style of photography you are happy with.
  2. Always have an initial meeting in a neutral setting so you can get to know them better and agree on what you both want from the shoot. If under 16 years of age, you should not, under any circumstances, agree to any type of meeting without a parent or guardian present.
  3. If something doesn’t feel right to you then it probably isn’t. If you don’t feel at ease in their presence or have nothing to say, listen to your instincts carefully as they might be telling you this is not the right person for you to be working with.
  4. If you are uncomfortable with a particular idea, shot or pose you must communicate this immediately and seek a change.
  5. Find out what the turnaround time is so you will know how long it will take for you to receive your images.
  6. Check they have all the necessary equipment to create the imagery you are looking for so you don’t waste your time.

Tip to remember

The end product will reflect their experience and yours so ensure you research the photographer carefully. Only agree to work with experienced fitness photographers whenever possible regardless of whether it is TFP or not. The more experienced the photographer, the more you will rise above the ‘ordinary’.

Model Release Form (MRF)

The importance of the contract between you, the model and the photographer (again whether TFP or not), is pretty much a given. The Model Release Form is a binding legal agreement which should include:

  1. A paragraph (or two) written at the top of the page stating the photographer’s name and/or the company and what you are giving permission to. For example, where the photo can be used, how the image can be modified, and who retains the rights of the shots.
  2. Your personal data, your name, the date and your signature.
  3. Photo-shoot information – date and location.
  4. If under 16, there is an option for your legal guardian to sign the document and print their name.
  5. Compensation or fees (if agreed to).
  6. 2 witnesses are usually required to sign the form and to include their addresses.

This is most important as a signed document protects your images from being used in an inappropriate way that cannot be challenged if the contract is left unsigned. Always make sure you have your own copy for your own legal safety’s sake before you start shooting pictures.

Before going to our fitness portfolio shoot, there are some essential steps you need to take to make sure you are primed for the camera.


The importance of creating a strong mood board

The mood board is your opportunity to have creative input into the portfolio shoot and therefore should:

  • Include examples of the fitness movements that show your physique in the best possible light. These power poses, or hero shots as they are called in the trade will highlight the flexibility and range of your extraordinary abilities and the extremes you can push your body to.
  • Reflect the versatility of your sporting abilities and talents.

Showcase the fitness garments that enhance your musculature and the brands you ultimately aspire to represent.

Preparing for your fitness portfolio shoot

Looking exceptional is one of the best ways to make a great first impression, so always allow plenty of time to prepare for your photo shoot. Prior to your shoot, agree with your photographer details such as the arrival time, exact location, and share the ideas you have formulated on your mood board so your photographer has some insight into the look you are aiming for.

Always ensure you are on time for your shoot and aim to arrive 20 minutes prior to the start time. This will enable you to break the ice with your photographer, and any other relevant people who may be assisting on the day.

Here’s a general checklist you should complete prior to your shoot.

  • Clean hair that’s been cut, treated and styled well.
  • Clean, clear skin that’s been treated with regular facials.
  • Clean, neat, and manicured nails.
  • Clean, white teeth.
  • Wax or clipper any body hair.
  • Clean and ironed outfits.
  • Males should be clean-shaven unless otherwise briefed.

Now you are ready to send your portfolio off into the big, wide world and with more than 3.8 of the global population using social media sites, you need to choose your target audience carefully. Doing something you love shouldn’t feel like hard work but if you want to be successful you will need to approach this next stage as you would any new business, with a well thought out and detailed plan. The fact you have come this far demonstrates a level of commitment, determination and passion but it would be naive to think you can now sit back, kick off your heels and wait to be discovered after uploading a couple of new images to Instagram. You will need to put some serious time and effort in. What you need is a marketing strategy.


Sending out your fitness modelling portfolio

As with anything worth having in this life, the more you put in, the higher the reward but you need to bear in mind your profile will need to be built up step by step – success is not generally achieved overnight.

Fitness model and casting agencies

The first thing to do is decide who you should be marketing yourself to so you need to see what fitness model and casting creative agencies are out there. You should already have some ideas of the brands you ultimately aspire to represent but choosing the right agent is also extremely important so research what clients they work with and what other models are on their books. Each individual agency will have a definitive idea in terms of what they are looking for, so highlight your unique talents and the sports you specialise in to show how beneficial you could be to their organisation.

When making initial contact, be mindful of the time you send emails out to maximise your exposure. There are 2 ideal times: 10.30 am when the backlog of emails have been sifted through to ensure yours doesn’t get lost in a long list of unread messages and 2.30 pm when the priority jobs are out of the way and the chances of your contact being in a relaxed mood are more possible.

Social Media

The advantages of social media are multiple. First of all, it is cost-effective, enabling you to reach a larger audience while maintaining control over the content, it is also a more informal and immediate tool, you still need to ensure the highest level of professionalism in your approach. Keep your social life and business accounts completely separate and ensure that everything posted (on either side) is tasteful and what you would want any future employer to see. Remember, you could potentially be the next ambassador to one of the biggest companies or chains and the careers of aspirational fitness models can be undone with just one unsavoury picture, tweet or comment. Here are 5 key steps to help bolster your online profile.

  1. Once again, research is key in identifying your audience – who do you want to see your posts and which social media sites are they using?
  2. Make a plan and timetable a set amount of hours each week to update your sites and keep yourself firmly in the minds of your audience, who can be a fickle bunch. If you’re not interacting regularly with yours, they’ll soon lose interest and move on to the next hopeful. Out of sight equals out of mind, so be consistent.
  3. Engage with your audience. Showing you are genuinely interested in commenting on their posts will positively strengthen your online presence and make it a two-way process.
  4. Interact further by hash-tagging your favourite brands in images of you in their clothing range (everybody likes free publicity, right?) and also tag the communities from your talents and fitness specialities. Invite positive comments to your images with open questions starting with ‘should I, would you or which.’ This gives your audience an option of responses and it puts them in your shoes. Just make sure you reply to the answers.
  5. Utilise the free tracking and analytical tools available on Google, Facebook, Twitter etc. to regularly check who is engaging in your posts. Reflect on what is working, which posts are more popular and always look at ways to continually improve your marketing strategy.

So, there you have it! Now it’s over to you but please remember success seldom happens overnight, so have patience and make sure you’re fully equipped to take your career as a fitness model to great heights.

Written by AEFM International

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